Founding fathers would expect as much
The Rev. Paul Gray, pastor, Heartland Community Church, 619 Vt.:
Patriotism means "love and loyal support of one's own country." Churches should absolutely promote "love and loyal support of their country" - whether it's churches in the United States, Brazil, Italy or anywhere else.
In America, not to do so is to fly in the face of our founding fathers - and in the face of our creator. Our country was founded on Judeo-Christian beliefs and principles. Virtually all of our founding fathers were strong, practicing Christians (many of them ministers), and patriotism and their faith were inexorably intertwined.
But in promoting the love and support of the United States, it's never right for a church to promote one political party over another. It's never right preach or teach that one is only patriotic unless one supports (fill in the blank).
And God should always be our highest authority. He commands us to not worship or hold anything in higher esteem than we do him. He does give us specific advice in Romans 13 about the government that we're under, including "give respect and honor to all to whom it is due."
Our second president and one of the Constitution's framers, John Adams, wrote: "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."
Our Declaration of Independence states that our citizens are "endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights, among which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." The United States government, based on biblical principles that provide the freedoms that our Creator intends for us, is indeed worthy of love and loyal support!
- Send e-mail to Paul Gray at email@example.com.
Not at the expense of other nations
The Rev. Gary Teske, pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church, 1245 N.H.:
My answer to this question is "yes!" However, I think the real debate centers around our understanding of the word "patriotism."
George Bernard Shaw is reported to have defined "patriotism" as follows: "Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all other countries because you were born in it."
I suspect that George's definition of patriotism predominates in this land as in others. However, I don't believe that this is the kind of patriotism that churches should encourage.
The establishment and maintenance of superiority by one country over others is divisive, dangerous and has caused immeasurable amounts of suffering, destruction and bloodshed.
Martin Luther, the 16th-century reformer and the namesake of the Lutheran church, had this understanding of the role of citizens: He taught that we are to be supportive of our governments, not for our own self-interests, but for the sake of others.
In a treatise he wrote in 1523, he stated, "So he (the Christian) serves the governing authority, not because he needs it but for the sake of others, that they may be protected and the wicked may not become worse."
Being a patriot doesn't mean holding my country and our interests above those of our neighbors, but supporting and working within the country in which we live for the good of our neighbors, both within and outside the borders of our nation.
I see no difference between being a patriot and being a good citizen; and citizenship, when viewed in the light of Jesus Christ, is simply working within our government and its institutions to fulfill the commandment, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 22:39).
- Send e-mail to Gary Teske at firstname.lastname@example.org.